baby steps | DGLs + PFCs

Hey hey—it’s already March?!? Before we dig into DGLS and PFCs, how are you doing with our Baby Steps to Health challenge? If you’re just tuning in, you can find January and February’s challenges here:

This month: DGLs (dark green leafies)—possibly my favorite food recommendation of all time.

Americans tend to obsess over our “macros:” proteins, fats, carbs (PFCs). We weigh and measure and count, reduce, eliminate, and bump up, balance and rebalance.

If someone’s vegan, we immediately ask, “But where are you getting your protein?”

If someone’s keto, we want to know, where are they getting their fats?

And carbs? Well, they’re currently in the doghouse.

We keep an eagle eye out for the next macro trend: who’s having success with endurance or strength training, with weight loss, with lean muscle mass building?

What we don’t tend to look at is: who’s got more energy, who’s sleeping better, whose mind is clearer, whose digestion is smoother. Granted, most of these are harder to gauge by external appearances; we have to get personal and ask.

eat your vegetables

Mom was right, you know. (Don’t you hate it when she’s right?)

Fats and proteins are found in high quantities in and—for some people—are more readily available from animal products. Carbs hang out in most grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables—accompanied by moderate quantities of lean protein and beneficial fats.

Something we often overlook: whole grains, legumes, fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds contain considerably more micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) than animal products.

And micronutrients are what allow our bodies to use macronutrients to their best advantage.

You can obsess all you want about your PFCs—they’re not much good to your body unless you’re getting those micronutrients in.

So eat your vegetables—a rainbow of them, daily—and don’t fear the carbs in beans and whole grains.


Dark green leafy vegetables (DGLs) are perhaps the least commonly eaten vegetables in America. Notice the word “dark” in there—iceberg lettuce doesn’t count, anything cabbage-y or salad-y does.

I ask my clients to work up to their plate being 50–75% vegetables at every meal. Yes, including breakfast. And no, peas are a legume, and corn is a grain.

And I urge them to eat at least one serving of DGLs a day. If you must, you may put that serving in your smoothie.

Why do I show preference to DGLs? They are nutritional powerhouses, being very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. And they are also full of fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll, and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals.

They are considered to have the following benefits (a somewhat odd mix of Western and Eastern, allopathic and alternative opinions here):

  • Blood purification
  • Cancer prevention
  • Improved circulation
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Promotion of subtle, light, and flexible energy
  • Improved liver, gall bladder, and kidney function
  • Cleared congestion, especially in lungs, by reducing mucus
  • Promotion of healthy intestinal flora

Want to feel better? Skip the fad superfoods and eat more DGLs—the real superfoods, hiding in plain sight in the produce section.

getting the DGLs in

first, a disclaimer

Please note that there are some medical conditions (especially kidney disease) and medications (particularly certain blood thinners) that can be affected by eating too many DGLs. Make sure to consult your primary care provider before you start piling on the DGLs. That said, for most people with these issues, DGLs are not out of the question; rather, it’s the amount and consistency of consumption that need to be examined. @MyFavoriteStepfather: we will continue this discussion in even greater detail when I’m back in Vermont next month!

tips + tricks

If you’re used to eating green beans, carrots, peppers, squashes, and other “sturdy” vegetables but not DGLs, here’s a handbook to getting started.

As a first baby step, try out the milder ones: spinach, Romaine lettuce, other baby lettuces, cabbage, chard. Then move on through the more peppery ones: mustard greens, arugula. And then try the truly bitter ones: kale, collards. Note that when they’re cooked, greens lose a bit of their bitter and/or spicy flavors.

I am not a fan of “hiding” vegetables—the point, in my opinion, is to develop your palate to appreciate them. That said, there are lots of ways to fit DGLs in daily. For those who don’t have to watch their intake, consider one portion = two large fistfuls, raw (they shrink a lot when cooked).

So here are my tips for making that happen, taken from an earlier blog post:

  • In spring/summer, eat a green salad with lunch or dinner (or even breakfast, if it’s savory!) Sorry, iceberg lettuce doesn’t count—it’s full of fiber and water, but it just doesn’t have the nutritional punch of its darker relatives. However, if you’re out traveling the country on the interstate highway system, even an iceberg lettuce salad is better than no greens for the day!
  • Sauté some greens and either mix them into your scrambled eggs, put them in an omelet, or use them as a base for eggs any style. This is a great place to use up planovers—those extra greens you cooked for last night’s dinner veggie.
  • If you’re into smoothies, put in a handful of a milder-flavored variety in—you likely won’t even notice they’re there.
  • Steam or sauté DGLs for a hot or room-temperature side dish.
  • Cut into ribbons and add to just about any soup or stew.
  • Chop finely and add to casseroles, meatballs, meatloaf….

eat your DGLs

For this month, your baby step to health challenge is to eat at least one serving of dark green leafies every day. (Yes, I intentionally chose a month with 31 days for this one!)

Want more accountability? Set up a free GroupMe account, and join the Baby Steps 2022 group chat! Tell us in the chat what DGL you included in your day and how you cooked it.

make the connection

This is the third challenge in a 12-part series that will run for all of 2022: every month, I’ll share a small, simple, sustainable shift to make on your way to healthier food and lifestyle choices. By the end of the year, the difference in your health will amaze you!

“A YEAR?!? But that’s so long,” you may be thinking. Remember: a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.

Let me ask you this: how long have you been making poor food and lifestyle choices? I’ll bet it’s been more than a year, maybe even more than a decade….

And those poor choices have resulted in poor health.

The good news is that you can reverse the downward trend by making better choices, and the only way those will stick is if you make them one baby step at a time.

Eat a serving of DGLs daily throughout March and beyond—then come back for April’s Baby Step to Health! Want to make sure you don’t miss a single challenge? Join my email list.